Blood in the rust belt: Mourning and memorialization in the context of community violence

Robert A. Rubinstein, Sandra D. Lane, Lookman Mojeed, Shaundel Sanchez, Elise Catania, Timothy Jennings-Bey, Arnett Haygood-El, Edward Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This paper examines the use by those living in impoverished neighborhoods of color in Syracuse, NY, of artifacts and rituals of memorialization in response to intense ongoing violence. This work is part of a longitudinal, community-university action anthropology collaboration on trauma due to neighborhood violence. This Rust Belt city of 145,000 residents had 30 murders in 2016, the highest murder rate in New York State and one of the highest nationwide. Since at least 2009, the majority of Syracuse’s homicides resulted from neighborhood violence in which adolescent and young adult members from competing turf areas carry out ongoing feuds. Neighbors, coworkers, family members, and friends of murder victims face trauma, including emotional and somatic symptoms. There is little public recognition of the deep pain and grief experienced by community members. In response, community memorialization takes place through a process of acknowledging key events with symbols, folk art, martyrdom, and language. These artifacts express shared values, even when those values are contrary to and in resistance to values of the larger society. We compare these practices to those seen in civil conflict areas to suggest that such memorialization may unfortunately fuel ongoing violence through processes of social contagion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-454
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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